Knowing which bugs are beneficial, and which ones are pests, goes hand-in-hand with natural, non-toxic gardening. Whether you have a fruit and vegetable garden or a flower garden, a little knowledge about the creepy crawlies and flying insects that kill pests will keep your garden blooming without the use of harsh chemicals.
Synthetic yard and garden chemicals can’t tell the difference between pests and beneficial insects, and therefore kill both. Plus, pesticides are dangerous for you, your kids and pets, other animals and the environment. Read on to learn more about organic gardening and the natural enemies of pests.
Beneficial insects that control pests can be classified into the following groups:
- Parasitoids attach themselves to a pest and ultimately kill it. Some “female parasitoids may also kill many pests by direct feeding on the pest eggs and immatures”. Many are wasps or flies.
- Pathogens carry diseases that kill pests and are labeled in spray form as microbial insecticides, biorational or bio-insecticides. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), is a common pathogen. Pathogens typically target specific pests.
- Predators include lady beetles, true bugs, lacewings, flies, midges, spiders, wasps, and predatory mites which kill pests.
- Weed Feeders consume exotic and invasive weeds that choke out native plant species.
Simply planting specific types of flowers in your garden will attract beneficial insects, such as lady bugs, lacewings, minute pirate bugs, stink bugs (some species, such as the Spined Soldier Bug and the Two-spotted Stink Bug), assassin bugs, hover flies, paper wasps and many kinds of parasitic wasps. Flowers to include are: coriader (cilantro), dill (especially ‘Bouquet’ variety), fennel, caraway, alyssum, flowering buckwheat, black-eyed susans, dwarf sunflowers and yarrow.
To learn more about individual beneficial insects, including photos, click here. For more information about pests, including pictures, visit the National Gardening Association website.
Sources: University of Rhode Island and Cornell University